Birdwatching is a great way to introduce nature to your children. Birds are the best animals to watch because they are everywhere. Every region and environment has bird inhabitants so you don’t have to go far to find them. The colors and varieties of birds are interesting for kids to study. With a good field guide and a little exploring, your child and you could discover these awesome creatures together.
Any bookstore carries a bird field guide. This will help your kids identify birds and learn their names and characteristics. Many people like the Audubon field guides but I prefer the Kaufman guide. Whatever you chose will work fine and a guide should cost under $15. Your local library can also provide bird guides, just ask your librarian.
The easiest way to find a bird is by listening for them. This helps to pin point their location. Help your child to be still and patient so that the bird doesn’t get scared and fly away. Teach your child to look at the colors and markings on the bird to help identify it. Your field guide will show you key characteristics to look for. For example, a Blue Jay has a crest, black necklace, white wing-bars and white tail corners. Looking at the color and markings will also help determine if it is male or female or a juvenile. This will help your kids to pay attention to detail through observation. If you have a pair of binoculars it may help to get a better look. Taking your camera is also a good idea; you never know what you’ll see.
Keeping a bird life list may be a fun thing to introduce to your child. Get a notebook that is durable and can be kept for many years. Each time you find a species of bird that you haven’t seen before you write it down. It sounds corny in a way. But, as your list grows it becomes challenging to find new species. If you write down the date and a small description by each bird then you have a life long journal of your bird adventures together. By writing a description of the habitat and the behavior of the bird you are teaching your child to record data through observation, just like a scientist.
Birding is a simple, inexpensive hobby to share together. Searching for birds with each other is great bonding and can be done anywhere. You don’t have to go far to bird watch. You can bird watch in you back yard, or a park, even in the city. If you go on vacation to a different region be sure to take your list and guide because you may encounter species of birds that you don’t have in your area.
When I see birdwatchers on TV or even out in nature, they seem a little extreme sometimes. Loaded with gear and huddled together it is a sight to see. But trust me this will be an enjoyable hobby for you and your child. And it can be quite addicting to try to add new species to the list. Give it a try. Happy birding.